Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

August 1, 2006

Republican Realists Call for Major Course Change

by Jim Lobe

Some of the Republican Party's most venerable foreign policy strategists are calling urgently for a major course change in U.S. policy in the Middle East, but neither the administration of President George W. Bush nor Republicans in Congress appear inclined to pay much heed.

Whether their view may change as a result of Sunday's devastating Israeli missile strike of an apartment building in Qana in south Lebanon in which more than 60 people, two-thirds of them children, were killed, remains unclear.

The attack, which further fueled already-burning outrage throughout the Arab world against Israel's nearly three-week-old military campaign and Washington's rejection of international calls for an immediate cease-fire, reportedly prompted the administration to demand that the Jewish state curtail its air strikes.

But the deaths in Qana seem unlikely to persuade Bush and his increasingly hapless secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, to reconsider their basic policies, such as refusing to negotiate with Syria or Iran, or providing virtually unconditional backing for Israel's military offensives in both Lebanon and Gaza, as recommended by the former policymakers.

Indeed, the past week has witnessed a steady stream of columns, interviews, and television appearances by some of the most influential foreign policy strategists of the past generation, almost all of them either implicitly or explicitly very critical of current administration's course.

Most striking was the appearance in Sunday's Washington Post of a column by Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to both presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, in which he explicitly rejected the administration's contention that the "root cause" of the current crisis was Hezbollah and its attacks on Israel.

"Hezbollah is not the source of the problem; it is a derivative of the cause, which is the tragic conflict over Palestine that began in 1948," wrote Scowcroft, who went on to argue in favor of Washington taking the lead in forging and imposing a "comprehensive settlement" of all of Israel's security issues.

His plan, parts of which he has presented before, include the creation of a Palestinian state close to the 1967 Green Line, a broader Arab-Israeli peace along the lines of the 2002 Saudi plan by King Abdullah, and the deployment of a NATO or NATO-led international force to police traffic between Gaza and the West Bank and to enforce a cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon.

"The benefits of reaching a comprehensive settlement of the root cause of today's turmoil would likely ripple well beyond the Israelis and the Palestinians," according to Scowcroft. "[It] would not only defang the radicals in Lebanon and Palestine … it would also reduce the influence of Iran – the country that, under its current ideology, poses the greatest potential threat to stability in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan."

While not as ambitious as Scowcroft, who has been shunned by the White House since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon, other Republican veterans have used the current crisis to urge the administration to engage its foes in the region, rather than to ignore or try to isolate them.

In a Post column Monday, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger renewed his appeal for Washington to negotiate directly with Iran over its nuclear program and cited the current crisis in Lebanon, which he called a possible "turning point" in Iran's relationship with the region and the West.

"Hard as it is to imagine that Iran, under its present president, will participate in an effort that would require it to abandon its terrorist activities or its support for such instruments as Hezbollah, the recognition of this fact should emerge from the process of negotiation rather than being the basis for a refusal to negotiate," Kissinger argued in a thinly veiled rebuke of the Bush administration's diplomatic embargo of Tehran.

"Such an approach would imply the redefinition of the objective of regime change, providing an opportunity for a genuine change in direction by Iran, whoever is in power," he wrote.

Richard Armitage, a senior Pentagon official under Bush's father and deputy secretary of state in Bush's first term, also decried Washington's refusal to directly engage another key Hezbollah backer, Syria, during the current crisis in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) last week.

"We get a little lazy, I think, when we spend all our time as diplomats talking to our friends and not our enemies," he said. "…We have to be able to sit and listen to the Syrians in this case and see if they have the desire, the courage and the wisdom to get involved in a positive way," he noted in an implicit reproach to Rice's use of Saudi Arabia and other intermediaries to communicate with Damascus.

In the same interview, Armitage also criticized Israel's campaign for relying too heavily on air power, a tactic that he predicted would "end up empowering Hezbollah and perhaps introducing a dynamic into the body politic in Lebanon that will take some great period of time to recover from."

Not just in Lebanon, but throughout the entire Arab world, and even in Europe, Richard Haass, former secretary of state Colin Powell's top policy aide from 1981 to 1983, and currently the president of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), told the Post in an interview after the Qana killings.

"The arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction," he said. "People will get a daily drumbeat of suffering in Lebanon and this will just drive up anti-Americanism to new heights."

Haass, President George H.W. Bush's top Mideast aide, whose position as head of what has been the U.S.' most influential diplomatic think tank since World War II normally commands a certain decorum, was uncharacteristically scornful of the administration's mantra that the current crisis offers an "opportunity" to reach a permanent solution to southern Lebanon.

"An opportunity? Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?" he asked.

To date, however, these critiques do not appear to have made much of a dent either within the administration, which made clear Monday it still opposes an immediate cease-fire, or among Republicans in Congress, only five percent of whom (compared to 30 percent of Democrats) believe that Washington has aligned itself too closely with Israel in the current crisis, according to a confidential survey of 41 lawmakers from each party by The National Journal last week.

The only exception is a handful of Republican senators, including Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a possible presidential candidate in 2008, who, in a policy address to the Brookings Institution Friday, warned that the U.S. relationship with Israel, while "special and historic … need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships."

"The United States and Israel must understand that it is not in their long-term interests to allow themselves to become isolated in the Middle East and the world," he warned, adding, "The core of all challenges in the Middle East remains the underlying Arab-Israeli conflict."

Anticipating Scowcroft, Hagel said the "failure to address this root cause will allow Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorists to continue to sustain popular Muslim and Arab support [and] to undermine America's standing in the region."

(Inter Press Service)

comments on this article?

  • US Jews Open to Palestinian Unity Govt

  • Bipartisan Experts Urge 'Partnership' With Russia

  • Obama Administration Insists It's Neutral in Salvador Poll

  • NGOs Hail Congressional Moves to Ease Embargo

  • Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support

  • Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo of Syria

  • Diplomatic, Aid Spending Set to Rise Under Obama Budget

  • Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals

  • Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy

  • U.S.-Israel Storm Clouds Ahead?

  • Calls Mount for Obama to Appoint 'Truth Commission'

  • Washington's Praise of Venezuelan Vote Suggests D├ętente

  • Rightward Shift in Israeli Polls Creates New Headaches

  • US Advised to Back Somalia Reconciliation Efforts

  • Hawks Urge Boosting Military Spending

  • More Troops, More Worries,
    Less Consensus on Afghanistan

  • Report: Most Citizens Kept in Dark on Govt Spending

  • Obama Raises Hopes of
    Mideast Experts

  • Obama Picks Israel-Arab, Afghanistan-Pakistan Negotiators

  • Rights Groups Applaud Move to Halt Gitmo Trials

  • Obama Offers Internationalist Vision

  • Around the World, High Hopes for Obama

  • Liberals, Realists Set to Clash in Obama Administration

  • Obama Urged to Take Bold Steps Toward Cuba Normalization

  • Clinton Stresses 'Cooperative Engagement,' 'Smart Power'

  • Bush Foreign Policy Legacy Widely Seen as Disastrous

  • Networks' Int'l News Coverage at Record Low in 2008

  • Amnesty Calls on Rice to Drop 'Lopsided' Gaza Stance

  • Israeli Attack May Complicate Obama's Plans

  • Report: Recognizing Hamas Could Help Peace

  • Business Groups Support Dismantling Cuba Embargo

  • Mumbai Massacre Seen as Major Blow to Regional Strategy

  • Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria

  • Diplomacy, Multilateralism Stressed by Obama Team

  • Obama Foreign Policy: Realists to Reign?

  • Hemispheric Group Calls for Major Changes in Americas Policy

  • Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance

  • Intelligence Analysts See Multi-Polar, Risky World By 2025

  • Obama Urged to Strengthen Ties with UN

  • Obama-Tied Think-Tank Calls for Pakistan Shift

  • Obama Advised to Forgo More Threats to Iran

  • First, Close Gitmo,
    Say Rights Groups

  • Obama's Foreign Policy:
    No Sharp Break From Bush

  • Coca Cultivation Up Despite Six Years of Plan Colombia

  • Obama to Seek Global Re-engagement, But How Much?

  • Two, Three, Many Grand Bargains?

  • Moving Towards a 'Grand Bargain' in Afghanistan

  • Top Ex-Diplomats Slam 'Militarization' of Foreign Policy

  • Bush Set to Go With a Whimper, Not a Bang

  • Pakistan 'Greatest Single Challenge' to Next President

  • Senate Passes Nuke Deal Over Escalation Fears

  • Brief Talks With Syria Spur Speculation

  • Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for AIPAC

  • Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World

  • White House Still Cautious on Georgia
  • More Archives

    Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2017 Antiwar.com